What is wild garlic and is it different than garlic at the grocery store? Learn what it is including the bulbs, leaves, flowers, how to grow wild garlic, and delicious recipes using this bulbous vegetable!
Wild garlic (allium ursinum) is a bulbous perennial flowering plant with many related names including ramsons, wild cowleek, cowlic, buckrams, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, (ursinum) bear leek or bear’s garlic. Ramson thrives best in nutrient-rich, damp, semi-shaded woodlands and is often found in marshlands throughout Europe and Asia and well-drained ditches in Britain. This fragrant plant is used in similar ways you use leeks, green onions, chives, onion grass, and organic garlic. That being said, it enhances flavor in foods and is a lovely addition to quiches, eggs, frittatas, salads, soups, pasta, and pizza.
What is wild garlic?
Wild garlic is of the plantae kingdom and mainly regenerates by seed. Its identification is made up of a bulb, stem or scapes, leaves and white star-shaped flower. Not to mention a garlic aroma when you take a whiff in the air or rub the leaves. The plant starts as a seed which extends to narrow bulbs that are formed from a single leaf base. It then grows into single bright green leaves and produces a flower towards the end of its blooming cycle. Blooming starts in the spring from April until the first half of May and it’s one of the first spring greens to appear. Wild boar and brown bears tend to be big fans of the plant, and in-fact the Latin specific name ursinum translates to ‘bear’. As bears arise from hibernation, wild garlic is known to be one of the first foods they enjoy to eat.
All parts of the allium ursinum plant are edible, including the bulbs (peel them first), stem, leaves, and the star-shaped white flowers which are pollinated by bees. But, be aware that the plant can be misidentified as poisonous plants, such as lily of the valley, Colchicum autumnale, Arum maculatum, and Veratrum viride or Veratrum album.
To make sure the plant is not a poisonous plant, rub your hands gently on the leaves to smell for garlic. Another method of checking if a plant is truly garlic, is that the leaves of wild garlic should have a single main vein and emerge as single leaves that are bright green and shiny.
Allium ursinum has been popular for many healing remedies and used as a homeopathic medicine. The minerals and antioxidants in wild garlic are much higher than clove garlic. Therefore they are used to naturally treat cardiovascular, respiratory inflammation, and digestive problems, as well as being associated in reducing blood pressure.
What does it taste like?
Allium ursinum (bear’s garlic or whatever name you choose to call it now) tastes similar to garlic (allium sativum) just with woody or grassy flavor. When using the bulb it in place of organic garlic the amount can be replaced in equal quantities in cooking. The stem has a more mild taste similar to that of green onion, green garlic, and chives. The leaves of the plant have a strong potent smell with a sweet elegant flavor, and the flowers resemble the taste of the purple colored flower that grows on the end of a chive plant.
Where to buy wild garlic
Chamisal bulbs can be found online, but versions are not typically found for buying at the grocery stores. Take a beautiful walk in the woods, depending on where you live and look for the flowers or a the smell of garlic in the air. In addition, search the Farmers’ Markets in early spring time around April for them to start to appear for purchase.
How to grow wild garlic
In the United States it can be found in areas in the states of Alabama, Ohio, and westerparts of Pacific Northwest. Wild garlic grows in dense green carpets, that are moist, if you know the right spots to focus on. Since they are hard to come by, many individuals choose to plant and grow their own harvest.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR GROWING WILD GARLIC:
- Wild garlic should be grown from seed and will mature by the summer or following spring.
- In small potters, sow the seeds indoors in March or another time not during its season of April-June.
- Keep the plant at a moist temperature of 59°F to 68°F (15°C to 20°C) to keep it moist.
- In 1 week to 10 days sprouts should start to appear from the soil.
- After 1 month from first planting the seeds, transfer them outdoors (8 inches) between each plant.
- The plants grow best in clumps.
HARVESTING THE PLANT:
- To cut the plant for use, cut the stalks to the base of the plant. The leaves will continue to grow quickly, which allows an abundant harvest.
- Leave the plants, except remove the flowering heads until July. This helps the roots get established and nourished.
Recipes and cooking with wild garlic
- Use the green leaves in place of basil to make a pesto sauce.
- Chop the leaves and whip together with organic butter to garlic butter.
- Chop and add the fresh green leaves to salad or boil into soups.
- Use the bulbs in these sage infused garlic mashed potatoes and the leaves chopped for garnish.
- Roast the bulbs to add flavor to sauces like this butternut squash pasta sauce!
- Add the flowers to pizza and salad for a beautiful edible decoration.
- Printable recipe below for Wild Garlic Oil. Add fresh bulbs that are peeled to olive oil with rosemary and make an infused oil to drizzle on salads, pizza, and turn into dressing.
Frequently asked questions
What is the difference between garlic and wild garlic?
Garlic and wild garlic are very similar in taste, yet wild garlic is rare to find and only grows in wet woodlands.
Is wild garlic known to be illegal?
Certain countries forbid allium ursinum from being picked unless you have landowner’s consent. It is because it is in the wild to preserve it for the wild animals and this a law in UK and in 1995 in Quebec after overpicking became a threat.
Is wild garlic safe to eat?
The whole plant is safe and edible to eat, including the stem, leaves, bulb, and flower.
When can you get wild garlic?
Ransom is available and in season in the spring, although in some areas that are wet and moist they may be spotted in the late winter.
How long does fresh wild garlic last?
Stored in the refrigerator it should last for up to 3 weeks.
Storing the leaves
How to store wild garlic leaves? Simply wash them and dry them well by blotting them with a towel and then laying them in a single file on a table or baking sheet to finish drying. Then transfer the leaves to a freezer sealed bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
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